Welcome to our weekly look at the hottest new releases and you don’t get much hotter than Howard Leese’s sensational solo album. Howard who? He’s the bloke who spent 22 years in Heart before stints with Paul Rodgers and Bad Company and he’s come up with a cracking record which deserves to be huge.
Elsewhere we focus on three more Frontiers releases as Crash The System roll out a melodic rock special, Mind Key celebrate a decade delivering progressive metal with a meaty new effort and Constancia prove keyboards and hard rock can be comfortable bedfellows. As if we didn’t know.
Howard Leese – Secret Weapon (Frontiers)
The album title says it all in the case of one of the quiet men of rock as the multi-talented musician responsible for some of the hottest licks in Heart’s 22-year, 40-million selling career goes solo in breathtaking style.
Surrounding himself with some of the biggest names in rock, Leese has crafted a superb 12-track showcase of his musical skills and it’s testimony to the underrated axeman that the likes of Paul Rodgers and Joe Lynn Turner simply complement, rather than overshadow, his best work.
Keith Emerson’s keys, on the fascinating French Quarter, underpin one of the standout collaborations and Keith St John proves he can live in such exalted company with the best vocal performance of the lot singing In These Eyes. Astonishing stuff.
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Leese Is More
Crash The System – The Crowning (Frontiers)
A band thrown together by somng writer Soren Kronqvist and producer Daniel Flores, this experiment in the perfection of melodic rock really works. Sure, you can tell this is less of a band and more a whole host of hired hands seeking to stamp their mark on a meaty project. But as a result there’s no complaceny and a rash of quality.
Former Yngwie Malmsteen sidekicks Goran Edman and Mats Leven are the main men vocally – the latter lending his talents to four of the 13 tracks. Candlemass crooner (if you can croon in a band like Candlemass) actually sings on five tunes but doesn’t seem so natural a fit as the excellent Edman.
Opener Fight Fire With Fire is reminiscent of Europe and Nightwish but then that’s no criticism. And as this vibrant record unfolds, with Take A Chance and Love Is In Your Eyes the highlights, there’s no doubt you’re listening to Scandinavian rock at it’s most melodic. And we love a bit of that.
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Crowning Glory
Mind Key – Pulse For A Graveheart (Frontiers)
On listening to this record the point of Mind Key becomes a bit of a mystery. Neither truly melodic nor wholly prgressive, their metal transcends genres in a way that Dream Theater do and do very well. Mind Key lack the experience and, possibly, the confidence to pull off a similarly ambitious masterplan and you’re left wondering just where this band is headed next.
Drafting in Whitesnake axeman Reb Beach on Now Until Forever is something of a coup and the US star certainly adds his individual touch to one of PFAG’s more memorable tracks. In fact this is one record which gets better towards its blistering finale, A New Generation.
Disappointingly the build-up lacks focus and this is one album you really have to learn to love.
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Open Mind
Constancia – Lost And Gone (Frontiers)
Keyboards have a key role to play in much of the melodic rock this website loves to laud and Constancia, like label mates Crash The System, aren’t afraid to make the most of a much derided instrument.
It means this excellent record is lifted from the mediocre to the memorable and on tracks like Dying By Your Flames, Save Me and I Never Said Goodbye it’s almost as if an exceptional album is delivering a lesson in oure pomp rock.
Pushes Howard Leese all the way in the race to be named as rushonrock‘s album of the week and that is praise enough for Mikael Rosengran’s band of merry melodic heroes.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Lost Treasure